Importance of Dental Care for Geriatric Patients
Proper dental care is important at any age, and while the aging process itself isn’t detrimental to oral health, certain medical conditions associated with aging can complicate oral hygiene habits. Arthritis, for example, can make simple tasks like brushing and flossing difficult, and cognitive health disorders can also affect a senior’s ability to maintain their oral health.
Whole-body health is directly impacted by oral health, and senior dental care should be an important priority. Take a look below at some of the specific reasons why geriatric dentistry is so important:
Gum disease is linked to heart disease
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, people with periodontal disease are nearly twice as likely to also have heart disease. In fact, one study found that common oral health problems such as gingivitis and cavities were as effective at predicting heart disease as traditional factors, such as cholesterol levels.
Bacteria buildup can cause pneumonia
Daily brushing and flossing, along with regular trips to the dentist, can keep harmful bacteria at bay. A buildup of bacteria in the mouth can make its way into the lungs, increasing the odds of developing pneumonia.
Diabetes can cause gum infections
Diabetes is a common condition among senior citizens, and high blood sugar has been known to lead to gum infections. Conversely, severe gum disease impedes the body’s ability to use insulin, which can exacerbate symptoms of diabetes and lead to serious medical consequences.
Dry mouth can lead to tooth decay
Saliva protects teeth from decay and infection by controlling bacteria, viruses, and fungi in the mouth, but unfortunately, many medications taken by seniors have dry mouth as a side effect. Anyone taking these medications, or undergoing cancer treatment that also causes dry mouth, must be extra vigilant with their daily oral care.
Dentures can cause stomatitis
Even seniors with dentures need to practice proper oral hygiene because poor oral care combined with ill-fitting dentures can cause an inflammation of the gum tissue called stomatitis. It’s a very uncomfortable condition that can affect a senior’s eating habits and overall nutrition, but regular dental check-ups can ensure that dentures fit properly and that good oral hygiene is being observed.
Tips for managing geriatric oral care
Even if your senior loved one can still manage brushing and flossing on their own, there are other ways to ensure they practice proper oral hygiene. For example:
- Help them set reminders and schedule dental cleanings
- Offer transportation to the dentist
- Urge them to talk to their doctor if medications are causing dry mouth
- Provide them with an electric toothbrush
- Help them remember to rinse with mouthwash once or twice a day and clean their dentures on a daily basis to prevent bacteria from building up
Looking for a dentist for elderly patients in San Diego?
At San Diego Dental Specialty Center, we are committed to the oral health of patients of all ages. If you or a senior loved one is in need of a specific dental procedure, dentures, dental implants, or just regular checkups, give us a call at (619) 263-6683 or fill out our contact form today. We value every one of our patients, and we’ll do everything to help keep you and your loved ones in optimal oral health.